Patronizing the Arts

General discussions of interest to readers and fans of Harlan Ellison.

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Eric Martin
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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 4:19 pm

That's fine, we can puff the calumet, hope for a quick end to this nasty little conflict, and move on.

Regarding Ambrose, I've found his work to be less history and more reverential biography. I read all of the Lewis and Clark book and parts of Band of Brothers, and in both cases I caught more than a whiff of jingoism. Ambrose tends to heroify his subjects more than I feel appropriate for true historian, although this was probably unavoidable in a project like Band of Brothers.

For this reason I've avoided his Eisenhower works, because I suspect they veer towards hagiography, especially since he was hand-picked by Dwight for the task. For anyone who is reading this, I'm open to suggestions on a good bio of Ike, especially his presidency.

Finally, Ambrose is not well-regarded by academia for reasons I won't bother listing, but it's not simply the plagiarism charges. I know that in Webderland the opinions of the professorial class are often mocked, but having multiple degrees myself, I tend to take those opinions fairly seriously. I'm also leery of a writer who's politics are so obvious, even though he may not be upfront of them in his work...his subject selection nonetheless is revealing, and certainly his public statements leave no question about whom he votes for.

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Postby FrankChurch » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:12 pm

Eric, you may belch smoke and cinder, but I agree with you about Ambrose. The guy is "historically correct" in his methods and he makes all of his subjects heroic to the point of nausea. Shit, not everybody in America was heroic.

The National Historic Society crowd should be penned and fed from a trough. They avoid deep pockets of the historical record and rely way too much on official sources.

It would be nice to see one damned history book that is about someone we have yet to hear about. I can do without another screed about the nobility of Roosevelt, during the big war. The writers only do these books to make a buck and they know it. Yea, Ambrose, do a book about Emma Goldman and see how far up the New York Times bestseller list you get. They might revoke his elite card.

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Postby FrankChurch » Mon Jun 05, 2006 6:14 pm

Barber, "dismissive of the military?" Hey, when we are attacked and the military fights the attackers, then I will be as gung ho as you are. Until then, no imperial grunt will get me to raise any flag. Just bring them home and fuck the happy talk.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:15 pm

Frank, since Ambrose died a few years ago, you're not going to see a book from him on Emma Goldman anytime soon.

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Rudiger Treehorn
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Postby Rudiger Treehorn » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:25 pm

Actually, Steve, if we apply your military construction to any variety of other situations (your opinion on rape is more valid if you're a rapist, on murder if you're a murderer, etc. etc..), the problem of the 'informed opinion' argument (in this specific case, when it's rooted in experiential knowledge) becomes a bit more apparent:

A: Rape's bad!
B: Have you ever raped someone?
A: Well, no.
B: Well, I have. You're entitled to an INFORMED OPINION. And my opinion is that rape is great.
A: I bow to the superiority of your informedness.

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Postby Eric Martin » Mon Jun 05, 2006 7:58 pm

Yeah, it applies to a lot of things:

Don't like the movie? Well sod off, what have you directed?

Think Bush is a dick? What do you know...been elected to anything lately?

Find Ray Bradbury's latest collection tedious? And what have you published?

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Postby Moderator » Mon Jun 05, 2006 8:26 pm

Rudiger, Eric -
The sad thing is, you guys are smart enough to exactly the point I'm making, but to paraphrase Forrest Gump: "Simplistic is as simplistic does". But there's something disturbing that's crept into your arguments.

You're taking the example to the extreme, which can be done an infinite number of times with an infinite number of arguments you yourselves have made on these same pages.

I said that no one who has not served can understand nor fully appreciate what someone who has served understands.

If you truly feel that snug and secure in your easy chair watching the evening news you can fully appreciate the experience of being shot at by people with whom your death is a significant achievement, then I salute you. Your imagination is far more realistic and effective than mine.

it's a far different matter to be criticizing the works of a filmmaker or writer, than criticizing the actions of someone who placed themselves in a dangerous situation and returned from it without arms.

You belittle his sacrifice, and you do it under the hubris of ideology, daring to compare the human life with criticism of a novel or movie...

Committing a crime and judging it is a far cry from serving your country. Committing a crime with thousands of victims is not commensurate with saying it's a bad movie.

I am truly disturbed by the tenor of your comments, and the analogies you're throwing into this argument.

Sorry kids, I'm done. This thread has crept into a disturbing territory that is rather unsettling. The debate is over, evidently.
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Postby Jan » Mon Jun 05, 2006 11:22 pm

No PM's from rich today, but look at this mess right here. Again Barber proves an easy target for Eric's tactics, and he's seriously defending his sources to Eric, when it's Eric who regularly makes statements without doing even basic fact checking.

The only way for Eric out of an argument such as this is either to vanish (as he did in the paranoia thread), to shift the focus (Germany discussion and here), or to cheat (also here). The victim of disagreement claims numerous times that
all I said was I didn't support them.

because he knows people here are gullible and will just assume they were mistaken. Here's what he actually said:
I was never much a believer in the "taking orders is my job" line anyway. War is a moral choice, made by individuals. To claim otherwise renders individuality moot.

which is the silly and uninformed statement one expects from him, but still Eric is surprised by Steve's
patronizing (and mildly insulting) suggestion "to read a bit more on the subject"

and the fact that someone would call it a "grand statement". He also later complains that:
I'm quickly accused of condemning hapless kids who are just taking orders

and suddenly thinks that
It's not a workable thesis to propose that every foot soldier evaluate every command decision with his or her conscience

and
They are very much mis-informed

When someone changes Eric's opinion he doesn't give them credit but usually punishes them with whatever he needs to do to look good and make a silent retreat.

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Postby Rudiger Treehorn » Tue Jun 06, 2006 4:45 am

It may have seemed extreme, Steve (ie. the slippery slope argumentative fallacy) but what I was doing was simply plugging different variables into the informed opinion rubric.

Military history (or at least the history of military encounters) suggests a number of qualifications to any 'you had to be there' argument. A few would be:

1) Systems are often only ludicrous when seen from without. That includes hide-bound thinking within a system, which is often a product of 'the way we do things.' Think of Civil War troops marching en masse into cannon fire, or the US in Viet Nam, or troops rushing en masse into mass machine gun fire in WWI.

2) People at the high end of a status quo, or who've reaped benefits because of being so, are invested in defending ludicrous behaviour when that behaviour served them well. The puffery of Montgomery of Alamein in his memoirs would be one example of this.

3) Engrained systems foster engrained, ritualized behaviour. Or, in other words, D-Day succeeds in part because Hitler is hopped up on goofballs and the German army paralyzed as a result even though it's generals know something's up.

4) Certain behaviours require exterior analysis. Or for an example, soldiers who acted really weird during and after the Great War were just cowards whose cowardice had been exposed within the military midset; explored from without, they were suffering from unavoidable and mostly uncurable psychological trauma.

Those are just a few examples -- and as I've picked on the military, note that the same standards could be applied to politics, business, writing, publishing, basket weaving...

Love, Rudiger

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:48 am

>You belittle his sacrifice, <

I never belittled anyone. This is the third time I've had to point out to you Steve that you work my comments into something far more villianous then they originally were. You've accused me of "condemning," "bashing," and now "belittling," when all I ever said was that I don't support the troops in this current military action.

I'm starting to smell a rat...as in, you are painting with a tar and feather brush, pushing me into a corner where I have to continually qualify my statements and protest that no, that's not what I'm saying. It's finally a despicable tactic, so yeah, I think we should drop it. Your bile waters are clearly roiling on this one, and you just ain't thinking, or speaking, clearly.

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 5:52 am

Jan, your obsession with me continues to your own embarrassment. You've posted about little else for the past two weeks. Bug off, this isn't your conversation.

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Postby Moderator » Tue Jun 06, 2006 8:50 am

Two Items, two posts.

Let me start with one directed to Cindy:

Cindy, you wrote over on the Pavilion:

The reason we got into the war was Saddam's resolve to restrict the venues required by the U.N. for inspection. Three months, if you recall-- we gave him three months to allow the inspectors to do their jobs. It was ridiculous for the U.N. to put up with Saddam's bullshit. Had Saddam not been a spoiled child he would have opened the palaces the U.N. would have been placated. It didn't work out that way and certainly the U.N. certainly bears some culpability in this mire as well.


No, they don't.

The issue was, if you check the unrewritten history books, was that we gave the UN INSPECTORS 3 months, which they explained repeatedly was not enough. The UN itself was willing to wait until the inspectors finished their work. We, in the guise of the Bush administration, we not. The UN in fact told us "no" unofficially several times as well.

We, in fact, pulled a vote from the Security Council because the results of that particular vote would have ultimately specified that no action be taken until after the inspectors finished their job. Of the five Security Council members with permanent status, only two were committed to military action.

We must accept the responsibility for our actions. You can't blame the UN given that we first tried to bully the organization into giving us permission, and when that didn't work we told them we already had the authority.

Not our finest diplomatic hour, and we're still reaping the results both in Iraq and in our lessened influence on the world stage.

And unfortunately, the administration line as you've detailed below, is an inaccurate one from a historical point of view. The first excuse was to eliminate WMDs. Second was to attack terrorists. Only when these two blew up did they settle on "Freeing the Iraqi People". And given their reasoning, why was Iraq more significant to their goals than many other nations where the citizenry was (and is) in significantly worse shape?
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Postby Moderator » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:11 am

Eric Martin wrote:>You belittle his sacrifice, <

I never belittled anyone. This is the third time I've had to point out to you Steve that you work my comments into something far more villianous then they originally were. You've accused me of "condemning," "bashing," and now "belittling," when all I ever said was that I don't support the troops in this current military action.

I'm starting to smell a rat...as in, you are painting with a tar and feather brush, pushing me into a corner where I have to continually qualify my statements and protest that no, that's not what I'm saying. It's finally a despicable tactic, so yeah, I think we should drop it. Your bile waters are clearly roiling on this one, and you just ain't thinking, or speaking, clearly.


Okay, rather than continuing what is becoming a heated discussion, let me add a little detail and see if you can more understand why I chose those words.

You've written, repeatedly as you state, that you don't condemn, belittle or otherwise denigrate the soldiers in the field. You simply don't support them and consider they are, in some way, responsible for their actions.

I've pointed out that maybe the dynamics of how the military actually works deeply affects their state of mind.

I stated, simply at first, that the soldiers who have committed what may be their lives to a cause need to feel that the cause is just. I condemned the war, and moreso the Bush administration, but I refuse to condemn the soldiers and in fact appreciate the fact that they truly feel what they're doing is to benefit you and me. (And yes, I recognize that there are, as in any group, predators. I'm addressing the vast majority of ethical, proud and patriotic soldiers and not the subset.)

My father was a career military man. Navy. (In fact, if you missed the point I tried to make several times, he's the guy who co-wrote the book with Ambrose). My brother-in-law is a Marine. I grew up in a military household, and have met a good portion of some of the most influential and intelligent military leaders of our time.

The majority of these influential and intelligent people are horrified by this war. They are being ignored by the civilian leadership.

And, and this is an important point, it is the civilian leadership's final responsibility to declare or order war. It is the military's obligation to conduct it. If the military refuses it's called a civil war, or worse, coup.

Therefor, in my mind, we the people who effectively through our publicly elected officials have chosen war as a course of action, have an intense moral and ethical obligation to accept and support the work of those thrown in harm's way, even if we cannot and do not accept the war that was declared. The military has no control, by design, of the choice to go to war. Some influence, yes, but no ultimate control. If they're told to go, they go. Period.

If you disagree with the war, as I do (and as do many more retired and line officers in the military than you have any clue about), then vote in the next election and turn the NeoCons out. Without Congress behind him, King George will have to make more sane choices in the future.

But to simply state that you "don't support" the troops does dismiss their effort, and it does belittle their sacrifice by minimizing it in your own way.

The military must follow orders from the civilian government, and the soldier on the ground must follow the orders of the leadership unless they have specific information that the orders are 1) illegal or 2) highly unethical (and the current administration doesn't seem to really care about either one of these). To refuse to do so is called a military insurrection -- and in a republic, that's a very, very dangerous turn of events.

THAT is why I use the words I chose, and THAT is why -- with no names called or heated exchanges -- I feel it is wrong not to stand by the men and women who are doing the job they were hired to do, with at times inaccurate information, and in a society built on the fact that they work for the elected officials, and not, repeat not, for a military junta.
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Postby markabaddon » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:35 am

There is one major point that everyone seems to be neglecting when discussing these soldiers and their actions in Iraq. They were never trained for this type of activity. You have a bunch of young kids, primarily, who were trained as soldiers, to fight in combat.

What they are doing right now is acting like a police force, an occupying force, in Iraq. The skills needed to do that are completely at odds with those necessary for combat.

This in no way excuses the massacres at Haditha, Fallujah, or other places where the soldiers may have lost their minds and attacked civilians. What it does tell me is that we need to remove our troops from that area as quickly as possible, rather than increase our involvement (1,500 additional troops were being sent from Kuwait to the Anbar province) or building permanent bases in Iraq (Haliburton is building 4 mega bases the size of small cities throughout Iraq).

Cindy, you seem like a very nice person, but your posting was filled with inaccuracies. Allow me to focus in on one, the necessity of the war. When the War started, it was not to protect the innocent people of Iraq, it was, we were told, to stop Saddam from using WMDs against us or from allying with terrorists. At no time before the war was this humanitarian mission mentioned as a primary cause. The reason for that is that many of our allies our as ruthless as Saddam was. These include the Saudis and some of the provinces of the former USSR.

More than that, bloggers from Iraq, including Riverbend, have detailed how they are less safe now than before. With gangs roaming the streets, police breaking into homes on random grounds, electricity and fresh water available on a very limited basis, their lives are much worse now than under Saddam.

Was Saddam a scumbag and a brutal dictator? Absolutely. He was also an isolated, nearly impotent little man who posed a minimal threat to his neighbors, and none to the US. He had NO ties to the terrorists, mostly because he was secular and they wanted to form a fundamentalists Shiite based government.

This military action is illegal (aggressive wars are against the UN Charter, which we basically drafted), was started under false pretenses, and was done with little or no preparation for the aftermath of the combat phase. If this Congress had any sense whatsoever, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice would all be impeached or in prison for war crimes.
Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristrocratic forms. No gov't in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, gov't tends more and mroe to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class

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Postby Eric Martin » Tue Jun 06, 2006 9:46 am

>I feel it is wrong not to stand by the men and women who are doing the job they were hired to do<

Since I don't agree with the job, I can't do it. Eventually someone has to say no, even to the sacred troops. I'm saying no...no support, no hurrahs, no corned beef hash...not for this venture.

Now, when they were kicking Afghan ass, that was different. So, am I fickle, only "supporting the troops" when I agree with their cause? I guess I am. A fairweather friend of the army, that's me. But never forget this, Steve...and it's an important point...I'M STILL PAYING THEIR SALARIES.

Money talks, bullshit walks. Hmm, if there was a mass movement to withhold income taxes to protest the war, risking millions jailed, would I participate? I don't know. Maybe. But until that time, I'm still working part of my day to arm, feed, clothe, and tend the troops and fund their activities.

So I feel I have a right, indeed an obligation, to bitch and moan about the troops and what they are doing since they are my freaking employees and I currently don't like the job they are doing. Would you rather I fired them? I think not. So let me be the angry boss, ok?


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